Sunday, November 4, 2012

Ten Statements About....WOLF CREEK (2005)

This may not be  some caricature of a bushman....
"I'm going to do something now they used to do in Vietnam. It's called making a head on a stick."

1) This is a beautiful, beautiful film--director Greg McLean has a real eye for great compositions and in the first third of the film frequently cuts away to catch moments of amazing loveliness. And because so much of this first part of the film is steeped in beauty and wonder, it makes the rest of the film all the more frightening.

2) And there's also the fact that while McLean never makes any bones about this being a narrative film, there are long stretches that seem to ape a 'found footage' feel, especially in regards to the party in the pre-credit sequence and the actual visit to the titular Wolf Creek. It gives the film a weird and strange sense of veracity to it, drawing us closer to our trio of protagonists, and making what they're going to go through all the more harrowing.

3) I find it interesting how McLean's script seems to gleefully take horror movie conventions and just screws with them something fierce. And each of these genre-busting moments are so well spaced that you forget that all bets are off, making each of these moments truly shocking.

4) The last two thirds is an extremely intense experience...and it's all the more notable for how very little overt gore there is in the film. We see rather graphic after-effects of what our villain does, allowing us to run horrific scenarios concerning what he's going to do to Kesti Morassi's Kristy in the shed we find them in that are all the more horrifying.
This is may not be your final girl..

5) And speaking of the villain, this film is made by the performance of John Jarrett as Mick Taylor. The thing that makes Jarrett so terrifying is that his actual performance almost never changes. He is still the same goofy, caricature of a bushman he appears to be when he first shows up; only the context changes for his behavior. And that somehow makes him downright demonic. Granted, it doesn't help that McLean creates this coda that seems to imply that Mick is something akin to a supernatural force (the playing around in the first act with stories of UFOs and magnetic interference don't help much, either)....but Jarrett owns this movie.

6) And since we're on the subject, the one big weakness of the film is McLean's continuing to play around with the idea that our trio of travelers slip into another reality when they encounter Mick. There are specific moments like the ones cited above, and another one involving a shed full of cars, that just don't work unless you accept that Mick is more than human. And sadly, it detracts from the film's power, as Mick Taylor is far more frightening as a plain ol' evil human being and not a preternatural killer.

7) While I know most people would cite the 'head on a stick' as the most disturbing moment of violence--probably due to it being the most graphic and gory moment--my feeling is that the last kill is the hardest to take. Portrayed in long shot, with no musical accompaniment, the thing that makes it so horrifying is how detached it...and if that isn't enough, the close-up that follows of Mick, his expression so blank it invites you to figure out what's going on behind his head, just chills you to the bone.
This may not be an escape...

8) This is one of these films--and this may be more thanks to Jarrett than McLean--where a second viewing changes the experience. Watching it with the knowledge of Mick's true nature changes your attitude towards his interaction with our heroes, and makes you see them in a new light.

9) There is one moment in this film, where someone comes across a pile of video cameras and watches one of those videos that still chills me to the bone. There's no violence, no threats, but the sheer implications of what we see, the conclusions we draw, may very well be the most horrifying thing in the movie.

10) The ending is so bitter--it manages to thoroughly break the back of the hope that it might otherwise give. Part of it is the seemingly random nature of why the character survives, and part of it is what the character goes through after escaping his fate.

Overall...even though it's an extremely intense and ugly film morally, this movie is gorgeous visually and has enough going on under the surface that it achieves a certain haunting quality.

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